Florida Partnership Working to Improve Healthy Food Access

boy picks out fruitThe Food Trust, a nationally recognized nonprofit headquartered in Philadelphia, dedicated to ensuring everyone has access to affordable, nutritious food, is working with a variety of stakeholders to structure and implement a healthy food financing program in Florida to bring much needed fresh fruits and vegetables to nutritionally starved food desert neighborhoods.

Healthy food financing programs provide grants and loans to support a range of large and small grocery projects whose credit needs are unmet by conventional financial institutions.

The Food Trust received $25,000 from The Florida Partnership for Healthy People, Healthy Places (The Partnership), a collaborative of six Florida-based health funders, including the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF), Florida Blue Foundation, Health Foundation of South Florida, Jessie Ball duPont Fund, Quantum Foundation, and Allegany Franciscan Ministries. (In addition, there are public sector members and there is a category for special members.) The Partnership is focusing on healthy food access during its first phase of collective action and funding.

According to Food Trust research, the situation is pressing because Florida spends an estimated $6.7 billion each year treating obesity-related diseases, and providing Floridians with greater access to nutritious, affordable food will help alleviate these public health concerns.

The Food Trust reports the grant has enabled them to:

  • Facilitate a partnership between the Florida Grocery Council and the Florida Community Loan Fund (a not-for-profit lending institution) to further the construction of grocery stores in communities of need, and helping those stores obtain low cost financing as an incentive to place stories in communities that currently lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Work with the American Heart Association (AHA), Florida Grocery Council, the Florida Retail Federation, community health foundations and others to launch a statewide Healthy Food Financing initiative during the upcoming Florida legislative session. The Food Trust will help AHA and others to promote a bill to provide state seed money for a funding pool that increases healthy food availability in underserved neighborhoods through flexible strategies such as retrofitting convenience stores or constructing new grocery stores.
  • Consider publication of a brief on ways to engage grocers in healthy food financing projects to be used as a resource for Community Development Fund Institutions (CDFI) like the Florida Community Loan Fund. A CDFI is a not-for-profit lending institution primarily focused on providing financing in the area of affordable housing, but who are now, thanks to assistance from The Partnership, developing plans to assist in financing grocery and corner stores.

The Food Trust its work in early 2015.